PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Carl Zeiss 1.4/35 Distagon T* Review

Despite strong roots in photojournalism, the Nikon F system somehow failed to maintain a stable of modern fast wide-normal lenses for most of its history. The landscape changed dramatically when, in the middle of 2010, Nikon users suddenly found themselves with choices of fast wide-normals to suit almost every budget and shooting style. The Zeiss Distagon in this review is the most controversial among these new options.


Bought my Lytro :^)

I plan to give it to my 4yr-old as her first camera. It was either that or a P&S – it wasn’t much of a contest. I want my daughter to think iPads and plenoptic cameras always existed, that I’m a dinosaur with my M.

This is the Polaroid of this era, what an amazing disruptive technology! Go Brian, go!

I had written this whole disparaging tirade about multi-frame blending hacks we keep hearing about here at NVIDIA. I’m skipping that to keep this positive.

In comparison to that other stuff, light field photography is a whole new medium where you’re making holographs instead of photographs. This medium has appeal for the lowest of amateurs at some immediate mass-market level (the focus thing) but to the serious artist there will soon be possibilities which did not previously exist. It will take a while for people to figure out what visual art can be made from holographs, and how to present them in mind-stimulating ways, and for all the tools to arrive that enable that.

It might take my daughter’s generation to grow up for that to really happen.

The gear will mature too and will stretch its application range. The beauty of this technlogy is that it’s relevant all the way to the top: think light field in a Phase One, light field in a RED. OMG. It just gets better and better, more and more mind-blowing as you think about it moving up the food chain.

This is the first week of the rest of photography’s history.


Faulty Distagon

Great news, I received a brand-new 1.4/35mm Distagon ZF.2 this week!  Unfortunately it is defective and will have to go back as soon as B&H will return from holiday.

The problem is that the ectronic aperture control is systematically off by half a stop.  i.e. 1.4->1.4, 1.7->1.4, 2->1.7, etc.  I suppose the widget that controls this was installed with a small offset inside the lens.  The manual aperture ring is accurate however, and my D700 is configured to use that instead now.

What's sad/funny is that this is only an issue because it's a ZF.2 lens; I would have been perfectly happy to buy this as a ZF.1 and would have nothing bad to say about this copy right now.  This is the first time something like this has happened to me (getting a bad product) and I'm annoyed that it happened to be a Zeiss lens -- the inspection certificate for the lens was signed despite this, so it's kind of meaningless.

The good news is that it is the first f/1.4 lens I actually want to shoot at f/1.4.

- Olivier


Nikkor 300mm f/4G AF-S IF-ED Review

As a class, 300mm f/4 lenses are the standard for the rational photographer in need of moderate reach. This Nikkor is a superb example of the class, but like the other Nikkor (non-exotic) telephotos it is relatively obsolete today. In short, a lens of this focal length needs to have stabilization.


Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D AF IF-ED Review

The recent surge of activity surrounding prime lenses has yet to reach the classic primes with focal lengths above 100mm.  Only the exotic “Super” telephoto lenses have been updated in recent years, and at a frequency that hardly seems reasonable. Meanwhile, moderate telephoto primes from all equipment manufacturers grow old and dusty on store shelves as the years pass. The 180mm Nikkor lens is an example of this decades-old trend.


Leica 28mm Summicron-M ASPH Review

The 28mm Summicron ASPH is both a landmark optical design and one of Leica’s most appreciated lenses out in the field. It is to date the best combination of quality, speed and size for the versatile 28mm focal length – the perfect documentary lens. What’s more, not only is this Summicron nearly the perfect lens technically, it is also a very pretty object to behold.


Data for the new aspherical 50mm Nikkor

Photozone has tested the new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.  See the data here.

This lens is just about perfect but focus shift is a more than hoped for.  Still at this price it represents a shocking value.  Kudos Nikon!

I look forward to torturing it.  :^)

- Olivier


There are (still) no telephotos for me

The world hasn’t really changed since the last time that I wrote on the subject, and I haven’t really changed either so I’m still stuck.

This lens is 15cm long.  It’s the telephoto that I want.

More after the jump.


Lots of eye candy

The chunky new Zeiss, photo credit

See one of the first reviews of the 1.4/35mm Distagon ZE/ZF.2 hereAnother one here too.  There's a lot to take in there.

[Edit: and another one here.]


DXO Reviews the Sigma 85mm EX

You know I've had issues with the DXO lens reviews for a while.  I didn't pay attention to them at all until they posted low-ish scores for some lenses I personally knew to be stellar optics.  These optics I would always choose to use over alternatives they ranked higher.

Since then my thoughts have been that they cannot properly assign value to the contrast delivered with the resolution.  Because that is what I value most, in terms of optics, then their reviews aren't super useful to me.  They also ignore physical aspects of lenses pretty thoroughly but that is stated up-front so I don't begrudge them that.

Zoom forward to now, and with their latest Sigma 85mm EX posting they said what I expected them to.  They found it to be one of the best lenses they've ever seen.  Indeed, I mentioned extremely high sharpness in my own review before basically failing the lens on contrast and usefulness in difficult lighting situations.  So we have another DXO review I find of dubious value.